Family Attorneys Answer Common Divorce Questions
Understanding what is happening during your divorce is essential. The attorneys at Laura Robbins Law, L.L.C., have drafted answers to several of the most common questions they hear at their offices in State College.
Why is it so important to fight for a fair settlement in my divorce?
Let’s face it – supporting two households is a lot tougher than supporting one. That’s why it is important to have a good attorney on your side as you navigate through the divorce process. There are many things to consider when you are going through a divorce such as spousal support, alimony, alimony pendente lite (alimony during the pendency of the divorce), real estate, trust accounts, retirement benefits, health insurance and so much more. It is necessary for you to get a fair settlement in your divorce so you have the best chance of supporting yourself in the future.
Do I need a reason to file for divorce?
Pennsylvania recognizes six fault-based grounds for divorce: adultery, bigamy, desertion, prison, cruelty and indignities. However, most Pennsylvania couples terminate their marriage without laying blame. The parties can divorce by mutual consent or either spouse can seek a no-fault divorce by asserting irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. A fault-based divorce requires proof, which raises the cost and the animosity.
How long will it take for me to get divorced?
Usually, after a divorce action is filed, one or both spouses are eager to finalize their divorce. There are several ways this can be accomplished:
1. By consent
2. By litigation
3. By bifurcation
A divorce decree by consent will be quicker. However, it is still not an overnight process – it will take a few months. On the other hand, if one party refuses to finalize a divorce and consent to a divorce decree being entered, the process can take two years. Then, there are cases where both parties agree to a divorce, but still want to litigate their other issues (such as equitable distribution, alimony, etc.). Getting divorced in this type of situation can take less time than a fully contested divorce, even though other issues relating to the divorce may remain unresolved. A bifurcated divorce means that the marriage is officially dissolved for all legal purposes even though financial support and property division are still pending.
Does each spouse get half of the marital estate?
Assets owned prior to marriage, and gifts or inheritance received during the marriage, are generally not subject to divorce, unless those assets became “commingled” with marital property. But otherwise, all wealth accumulated during the marriage is subject to an equitable – not necessarily equal – distribution in Pennsylvania. The court will also consider many factors in deciding the proportion to each spouse, including their incomes and earning capacity, the length of the marriage, contributions to the marriage, and their respective retirement “nest eggs.”
How is child custody decided in a Pennsylvania divorce?
If the parents cannot agree on parenting arrangements, the court will make that determination. In a contested custody case, the judge will usually grant primary physical custody to one parent and partial custody (regular visitation) to the other parent. Some parents have shared custody, with equal or nearly equal parenting time. The court considers many factors, including the child’s wishes, siblings and extended family, stability of each household, the distance between households, past abuse, past addictions, parenting duties and whether each parent will foster or hinder a healthy relationship between the child and their co-parent.
Do grandparents have rights after divorce?
Pennsylvania does recognize the rights of grandparents to petition for visitation or partial custody of their grandparents under certain circumstances, as when the parents separate or when one parent dies. The grandparent has the burden to show that regular visitation is in the grandchild’s best interests.